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Female computer science students: A qualitative exploration of women’s experiences studying computer science at university in the UK

Yates, J. ORCID: 0000-0001-9235-564X & Plagnol, A. ORCID: 0000-0001-5705-8949 (2022). Female computer science students: A qualitative exploration of women’s experiences studying computer science at university in the UK. Education and Information Technologies, 27, pp. 3079-3105. doi: 10.1007/s10639-021-10743-5


The under-representation of w omen in computer science education courses is well documented, and the social and commercial need to address this is widely recognised. Previous literature offers some explanation for this gender imbalance, but there has been limited qualitative data to provide an in-depth understanding of existing quantitative findings. This study explores the lived experiences of female computer science students and how they experience the male dominated learning environment. Female computer science students from eight universities were interviewed (n = 23) and data were analysed using template analysis. Whilst these women have not been troubled by their sense of fit at university, a combination of stereotypical assumptions of male superiority in this field, and a masculine, agentic learning environment, has left them feeling less technologically capable and less motivated. The findings are discussed in terms of Cheryan et al.’s tripartite model for women’s participation in STEM (2017) and we recommend that computer science departments should consider feminist pedagogy to ensure that all learners can be well supported.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: Computer science students, Occupational ft, STEM gender imbalance, Agentic learners, Communal learners
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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